Last fall I agreed to serve a one-year term as president of the board of a Seattle arts non-profit. The company that had been my primary client was in the midst of a major reorganization, and my usual projects were on hold. So I had the time. And, thanks to the employee stock options I’d exercised when I left Apple in 2006, I had some money — or, at least, some stock to turn into money.
It’s been a challenging year with the board. We’ve gotten a lot of work done, and there’s still a lot to do. So this afternoon I was in the middle of running a community strategic planning exercise with donors, granting agencies, volunteers, board, and staff. During one of the group discussion periods, I heard a buzz from my iPhone, and looked down to see a ping from the CNN app. Something about Apple. At first I thought it was routine stock news. But then I took a closer look: Steve Jobs had resigned as Apple CEO.
My first thought was: “If it weren’t for Steve Jobs, I couldn’t be standing here.”
It wasn’t just the money; it was the project management genius I’d seen demonstrated at every level of Apple, from engineering to HR. I don’t think I fully absorbed it while I was working there…it sunk in I as I started to run my own company, and when I agreed to take a leadership role with the board. Things like:
- Focus, and re-focus. There are always long lists of things that would be great to do, but only a few that are mission critical. Don’t get distracted.
- Speak up, and don’t be afraid to disagree. There’s nothing wrong with disagreement and passionate argument when all parties are focused on the health and success of the organization.
My year leading the board is nearly over, and I’m starting to return to a full schedule of client projects — including a website for which the first draft of content is due tomorrow.
But I spent some time tonight looking at what Apple employees, former employees, and industry observers are saying about Steve Jobs. Take a look at the Twitter remarks from people like Glenn Fleishman (@GlennF) and Stephen Fry (@stephenfry). Read what Walt Mossberg has to say in the Wall Street Journal.
After I saw the news on my iPhone this afternoon, I was stunned. But our discussion groups were returning to share their results with the general meeting. As our participants reported the results of their brainstorming sessions, I sat in the circle with them and scribbled notes. On my iPad (using the Penultimate app).
Thank you, Steve.